This Friday’s (Jan. 21) B.C. Hockey League game against Cowichan Valley Capitals is a must-win for the Alberni Valley Bulldogs, who hold a slim three-point lead over the Caps for sixth place in the Coastal Conference playoffs.
On paper, their chances look good: the Bulldogs have beaten Cowichan six out of seven games this season, including a 5-2 win last Saturday at Weyerhaeuser Arena.
But the Bulldogs haven’t been consistent on the road lately, and they need to win when they don’t have home ice advantage.
“That’s our Achilles heel right now,” assistant coach Kevin Hasselberg said.
“Our team’s been very inconsistent when you look at effort. That particular day (Saturday’s win) we were playing well with four lines,” he said.“We were winning puck battles. There wasn’t a fluke about it; that’s the way that we play when we’re winning games.”
The top 7 teams of each conference earn berths in the playoffs.
Powell River Kings lead the Coastal Conference with 73 points as of Jan. 19, followed by Langley Chiefs in second place (58 points), Surrey Eagles in third (57 points), Victoria Grizzlies in fourth (53 points), Nanaimo Clippers in fifth (48 points), the Bulldogs in sixth (45 points), Cowichan Valley in seventh (42 points) and Coquitlam Express in eighth (40 points).
The Bulldogs play four teams from their own conference in their next four games, including the Capitals (away Jan. 21, 7:30 p.m.), Surrey Eagles (home Saturday, Jan. 22, 7 p.m.), Nanaimo (home Tuesday, Jan. 25, 7 p.m.) and Victoria (home Friday, Jan. 28, 7 p.m.). Hasselberg hopes solid offence and more disciplined hockey will put the Bulldogs in the win column during this stretch.
Against the Eagles “they’re a very highly skilled offensive hockey team,” he said.
“We’re going to have to shut down their offensive players and not put too much pressure on our goaltender.”
That’s exactly what happened against Nanaimo Clippers in a road game Jan. 14, when goalie Frank Slubowski was the game’s first star despite the Clippers winning 2-1.
Not only did Slubowski stop 44 of 46 shots in the game, but he stopped many of them while the Bulldogs were shorthanded.
“We took way too many undisciplined penalties,” Hasselberg said. “As long as we’re staying out of the penalty box we’re giving ourselves a chance to win.”
The Bulldogs are looking to edge on the Clippers in the Battle for the Hammer. Right now the Clippers are ahead 5-3.
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